Groundbreaking Violinist And Peru Native Would Have Been 150 Today

Aug 22, 2017

Peru, Illinois, celebrates one of its most famous natives by putting on the annual Maud Powell Arts Celebration. The pioneering violinist was born 150 years ago today.

Credit The Maud Powell Society

Powell was revered as the best female violinist in the world during her lifetime and one of the first American violin masters.

“She stands as a model for women performers and composers,” said Brian Hart, a Northern Illinois University music history professor. “I know that Rachel Barton Pine, the Chicago violinist, has spoken of her as a very inspirational figure.”

Karen Shaffer is president of the Maud Powell Society and wrote Powell’s biography. She says Powell was one of the first American violinists to be recorded, and that’s how she brought classical music to the average person.

“She basically is a central figure in the development of classical music in America.”

Powell also commissioned works from American composers and played music by black composers, which was rarely done by white musicians at the time.